Crawley Borough Council

Election results for 2019

    Elected in 2019
    Elected in 2019

Most Recent

  1. Coronavirus: Council warns of 'difficult choices' to balance books

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    The next few years will see Crawley Borough Council facing some "very difficult choices" as it tries to drag itself out of the financial hole caused by Covid-19.

    Council leader Peter Lamb told members during a virtual meeting that the first quarter of the financial year had brought a £1.2m deficit, with more bad news to follow.

    Crawley Borough Council leader Peter Lamb

    He said: “We need to be clear, this is not going to be the end of it.

    “Certainly there will be further deficits in subsequent quarters, particularly if we’re required to go back into lockdown, which would drastically affect our income.”

    So far this year, the council has lost £343,000 of income from its car parks, £1.29m from sports and recreation and £227,000 of culture-related income, including the town’s community centres.

    Mr Lamb told the committee "much, much harsher problems" could be round the corner as both Parkwood Theatres and Freedom Leisure, who run the Hawth Theatre and K2 leisure centre respectively, were working to claim compensation for having to close the facilities.

    On top of that, the economic impact on both the town and Gatwick Airport meant more and more people would see their income fall to such a level that they would be able to claim council tax benefit.

    Mr Lamb said: “We are going to have some very, very difficult choices to take."

  2. Labour and Conservatives agree 'crisis' council plan

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    Crawley Town Hall

    Labour and Conservative leaders at Crawley Borough Council, which is facing a multi-million-pound gap in its finances due to the coronavirus pandemic, have come to an agreement over the running of the authority until the 2021 elections.

    Peter Lamb and Duncan Crow met when the council moved into no overall control after Labour councillors Karen Sudan and Rory Fiveash quit the party to become Independents.

    Their decision left the council with 17 Conservative councillors, 16 Labour and two independents, with one seat vacant following the death of Geraint Thomas in November.

    In a joint statement, Mr Lamb and Mr Crow said the council would keep a Labour administration but Mr Crow and his shadow cabinet would have greater rights and powers, and the next town mayor would be from the Conservatives.

    “We are in the midst of a pandemic, with thousands of local jobs at risk, and a multi-million pound budget gap in the council’s finances has opened up in the fight against Covid-19.

    “In these unprecedented times, we as elected representatives owe it to those we serve to put party politics to one side and focus on getting the town through this crisis."

  3. Second councillor quits Labour Party

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    A second Crawley councillor has resigned from the Labour Party – leaving the Conservatives with the most seats on the borough council.

    Rory Fiveash, who represents Bewbush and North Broadfield, announced his decision today.

    The news comes less than a day after his mother and fellow councillor, Karen Sudan, quit the party following allegations of anti-Semitism.

    Mrs Sudan, who represents Northgate and West Green at both West Sussex County Council and Crawley Borough Council, said she decided to leave the party so that she could defend herself against the allegations, which centre around three tweets on her Twitter feed.

    She said: “I’m not an anti-Semite. If these three tweets are evidence of it, it’s pathetic.”

    Mr Fiveash said he had been "under investigation" by the party for more than a year over three emails he had sent, one of which shared his concerns about the selection process for the 2019 elections. He said that in another email he had made "an ironic reference to mansplaining".

    Mr Fiveash said "gossip" had been circulating about the investigation "with many different stories being spun about the nature of it".

    He added: “This is the reality of the party’s complaints system – investigations are launched and left to sit for years while good people have their names dragged through the mud locally.”

    Mr Fiveash said he had warned the party three months ago that he would quit unless the matter was cleared up but – aside from some initial platitudes – had heard nothing.

    He said: “A great amount of time, energy and stress have gone into trying to clear this matter up. I need that energy to work for the people I represent.

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    “They are among the most vulnerable in our town and they always pay the highest price in a crisis. “They need and deserve my full attention now. In order to give my best to them I have, with huge reluctance, decided to resign from the Labour Party.”

    Meanwhile, Crawley Conservative MP Henry Smith said now was not the time for the local Labour Party to be engaged in "personality politics".

  4. Small firms can apply for grants to ease lockdown

    Bob Dale

    BBC Live reporter

    Nearly £12m has been handed to businesses in Crawley affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

    The borough council says the cash has been given to more than 800 companies.

    Crawley, which is heavily reliant on the aviation industry, received one of the biggest handouts from the government to help ease problems caused by the lockdown.

    It has now received just over £600,000 more, which can be used for smaller businesses.

  5. Fears over economic fallout of coronavirus on Crawley

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    The leader of Crawley Borough Council has warned the town’s economy faces "a long road back" to recover from the coronavirus lockdown.

    The town faces the daunting prospect of having the hardest-hit economy in the country, according to a study for Centre for Cities.

    Speaking during his weekly online Q&A, Mr Lamb appealed for more help from the government, and said: “Crawley has been, up to this point, an incredibly vibrant economy.

    “Ever since the new town was built, we’ve had almost full employment in the town. So it’s not something we’re really used to seeing, this potential impact in terms of unemployment.

    “It is going to require a great deal of intervention from the government to try to resolve it.”

    With Gatwick Airport on its doorstep, Crawley is hugely reliant on the aviation industry.

    Mr Lamb said that, over the last few weeks, the council had delivered some £34m of business rates relief and handed out £5m of grants to local businesses.

    But he added that he was "well aware" that two-thirds of businesses which may be eligible for a grant had not applied.

    Urging those firms to come forward, Mr Lamb said: “The impact on aviation and many of these industries will linger on and a number of businesses will genuinely struggle to get through this period, even with some of the support that’s been required.”

    Looking to the future, he predicted a tough time to come: “The reality is, as a town, we need to prepare for what is going to be a long road back to where we started.

    “Crawley has an awful lot going for it in terms of its workforce, in terms of its location, in terms of the businesses already based here – but it’s going to take some time to get that all up and running again.”

  6. Free parking for medics, social workers and volunteers

    People helping to tackle the coronavirus pandemic can park for free in one of Crawley's car parks.

    NHS staff, volunteers and social care staff will not be charged at Orchard Street multi-storey, which is less than five minutes from Crawley Hospital, for the foreseeable future.

    To sign up for free parking, staff and volunteers should email from their work email address with their name, vehicle registration number, telephone number, and the organisation they work for.

  7. Council objects to 10,000 homes

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    The leader of Crawley council has said the authority does not support plans to build more than 10,000 homes west of Ifield.

    Homes England, the government’s housing agency, wants to develop the site to include housing, schools and a relief road with work starting by 2022-23.

    While the new homes would be adjacent to Crawley’s Ifield neighbourhood, the land is on Horsham council’s side of the boundary, meaning Horsham would be the decision-maker.

    At a recent meeting, Crawley leader Peter Lamb said: “We do not support the application.”

    However, Ken Glendinning, head of strategic land at Homes England, said: “The new neighbourhoods will create homes where they are most needed.”

  8. Council rent arrears linked to Universal Credit roll-out

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    Crawley Town Hall

    The amount of housing rent arrears owed to Crawley Borough Council has spiked since the introduction of Universal Credit.

    Before the new benefits system was rolled out in June 2018, the amount of rent unpaid hovered around a £470,000 average.

    In May it peaked at just under £750,000 with officers predicting a further rise to £814,000 by April.

    The workload for council staff has increased so much that members of the cabinet have agreed that four new housing officers should be hired immediately, with two more at a later date.

    A report put to the cabinet said there had been a number of problems with the roll-out of Universal Credit.

    They included customers misunderstanding the system, which led to delays in making claims and an increase in their time without money, the delay in receiving their first payment, and tenants building up more debt because they applied for an advance but did not use it to pay their rent.

    The fact that most people have to claim online also caused problems, with some not understanding how to do so, the report said.

  9. Labour sees off Tory efforts to chair Crawley council committees

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    Labour councillors will chair all of Crawley Borough Council's committees in the coming year, despite protests from opposition Conservatives.

    The Tories now have just two fewer councillors than Labour on the 36-member authority following the council elections earlier this month, prompting their leader, Duncan Crow, to call for stronger representation for his party at the head of the committees.

    But councillors voted to retain Labour's dominance of the roles, while only two deputies - agreed before the meeting - will be opposition councillors.

    Richard Burrett will be vice-chairman of the governance committee and Jennifer Millar-Smith vice-chairwoman of the audit committee.

    The Conservatives also fielded candidates for mayor and deputy mayor, but Labour councillors secured both posts, with Raj Sharma taking the chain of office for the second time in three years. His deputy will be Shahzad Malik.

    Mr Sharma said: “It is indeed a privilege to be the mayor of any town but to be the mayor of Crawley twice - and so soon - is an outstanding honour.”

  10. Today's local news website headlines

    Newspapers (generic)

    The Argus: Hustpierpoint girl donated her organs which saved 5 people

    Kent Online: Fireman awarded £23,500 payout from the Ministry of Defence after workplace injury

    Get Surrey: Godalming pub CCTV captures moment drunk England fan knocks out friend with single punch

    Chichester Observer: Recycling collections delayed in Selsey after accident

    Brighton and Hove Independent: Police seize staggering £40,000 worth of drugs in Brighton raids

    Eastbourne Herald: East Sussex’s first female firefighter urges more women to come forward

    Crawley and Horley Observer: Mid Sussex accused of being a ‘bad neighbour’ by Crawley leader

    Worthing Herald: Watch this fearless, friendly seal getting up close and personal in Littlehampton Harbour

    Mid Sussex Times: Haywards Heath mayor highlights town achievements

    Brighton and Hove News: Upside Down House attraction set for Brighton seafront

    Hastings Observer: Couple who celebrate Diamond wedding anniversary say a cup of tea in bed each morning is secret to long and happy marriage

  11. Plans get go-ahead despite objections

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    Plans for a new road leading to three houses built in back gardens in Southgate have been approved by Crawley Borough Council.

    The access road will run between numbers 5 and 7 Southgate Road, while the detached four-bedroom houses will be built to the rear of numbers 5, 7 and 9.

    Plans for new houses in Crawley
    Image caption: The plans have been approved despite objections

    Over the years, similar applications have been approved further along the road, with numbers 11 to 17 giving up half of their lengthy gardens to new homes.

    Members of the planning committee heard concerns from neighbours, who were worried about the impact of the new houses on their own homes, as well as pollution from the extra cars the development would bring.

  12. Council writes off £1.5m debts

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    More than £460,000 of unpaid business rates are due to be written off by Crawley Borough Council.

    The debts, owed by five companies, have been deemed irrecoverable for various reasons, such as going into liquidation or being based offshore.

    Image caption: Crawley Borough Council is writing off debts of nearly half a million

    The report also said a further £693,524.48 of debts were written off in 2018/19 for bills such as housing rent, council tax and overpaid benefits, taking the total to more than £1.15m.

    The highest portion of those further debts, though, was still business rates, with another £386,840.69 written off.

    The report to the cabinet said the council was due to have collected £300m in business rates in 2018/19, with recovery action started for any bills not paid within a set period.

  13. Church hall site plans 'should be refused'

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    Plans to demolish a church hall and replace it with shops and 34 homes have been submitted to Crawley Borough Council.

    Councillors have been asked to refuse the application for the site of St John's church hall, which would also see the loss of the neighbouring NCP car park.

    The building on the site would include 28 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom flats, seven of which would be on the ground floor.

    Shops and community space would look out on to the Broadway.

    No parking is included in the application - and the 29 spaces in the current car park would also be lost.

    St John's plan

    A report from the planning officer said the applicant had not provided an adequate heritage statement - a way of assessing the impact of the development on the church - and had not shown that the church hall was now surplus to requirements.

    The report added: "The overall scale and massing of the development is considered to harm the setting of St John the Baptist Church, which is a Grade II* listed building, and is harmful to the character of the High Street Conservation Area.

    The application will be put to a meeting of the planning committee at the town hall on Tuesday.

  14. Council feels heat over power plan

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    Crawley Borough Council has denied that its planned district heat network will cost almost £7.5m to produce.

    The network will pipe heat and electricity from a combined heat and power plant at the new town hall development to nearby buildings, reducing their carbon and energy commissions.

    At a meeting of the full council, Kim Jaggard (Con, Maidenbower) shared details of a report from the government's department for business, energy and industrial strategy, which said Crawley's network would cost £7.48m to complete.

    Crawley Heat Network
    Image caption: An artists impression of the planned facility

    Mrs Jaggard asked the meeting: "After the government grant of £1.25m, how is the £6.25m balance going to be funded, how much is it going to cost council taxpayers of Crawley, and how long will the payback time be before we break even?"

    A council spokesman said the document referred to by Mrs Jaggard was based on a very early bid for the project.

    Since then, both the cabinet and full council have received reports setting out the latest costs, budget, scale and scope of the project - but due to reasons of commercial sensitivity, they have not been discussed in public.

  15. Council's budget 'alternative to cuts'

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    Crawley Borough Council has approved a rise in council tax of 2.49%.

    The rise will see bill for a Band D home increasing in April to £203.94.

    The increase was approved at a full council meeting as part of the authority's budget of £14.23m.

    With Sussex Police announcing a rise of £24, and West Sussex County Council's bill going up by more than £65, the average council tax bill will rise by about £95.

    The Labour council's leader Peter Lamb said the same amount of money was being put into local services now as when he took office five years ago.

    He said: "We've proven that there is an alternative to the cuts that we were told were an absolute necessity. We've delivered it without depending upon council tax".

    The budget contained £1.25m of cuts, including savings of £645,000 made by re-tendering a number of contracts, including a cleaning contract.

  16. Plans to improve Gatwick railway station

    Gatwick Airport railway station

    Plans for major improvements to Gatwick Airport's ageing railway station are expected to be given the go-ahead by Crawley Borough Council.

    An application to build a first-floor concourse and entrance area above platforms 5, 6 and 7 will be considered by the planning committee on Monday.

    The station opened in 1958 and, despite reconstruction and renovation over the years, has found it increasingly difficult to cope with the ever-increasing passenger numbers.

    The application would see platforms 5 and 6 widened, with new lifts and escalators fitted to platforms 3-7.

    The new concourse would have a curved roof, while canopies would also be put up over platforms 3-7.

    Alterations to the land east of the railway line - to include a two-storey 'back of house' building - would mean a public footpath would have to be diverted.

    A report to the planning committee said the work would help to address issues affecting the operation of the station.

  17. Post-Brexit 'tinned food and paraffin stoves' warning

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    Every district and borough council in West Sussex is to receive £1,000s from the government to help them deal with Brexit.

    In a written statement to parliament, local government secretary James Brokenshire announced a £56.5m pot to be divided among county and district councils over the next two years.

    However, one leader has said councils would be better off spending the money on "tinned food and paraffin stoves".

    Peter Lamb, leader of Crawley Borough Council, said: "When divvied up, it's not even enough to fund one additional environmental health officer for dealing with the added checks at Gatwick - better off spending it on tinned food and paraffin stoves."

    None of the councils in West Sussex have yet been told when they will receive the money.

  18. School to expand as special needs demand grows

    Karen Dunn

    Local Democracy Reporter

    A school in Crawley for children with special educational needs and disabilities is to expand because of increased demand.

    West Sussex County Council says it has earmarked £500,000 for two new classrooms and other facilities to take the official capacity at the "heavily oversubscribed" Manor Green primary school to 200 by September 2019.

    The capacity is currently 164 but there are currently 198 children, aged two to 11, on its register.

    The decision follows a public consultation last autumn, which backed the expansion plans.

    Crawley Borough Council planners will need to approve the development proposals before work can start.

    Manor Green was rated outstanding by Ofsted at its most recent inspection in 2017.